Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville
Session Date August 12, 2014
Appeal from the Criminal Court for Davidson County No. 2012-I-692 Cheryl Blackburn, Judge
Andrew B. Love, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, Theodore James Nugent.
Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Benjamin A. Ball, Assistant Attorney General; Victor S. Johnson III, District Attorney General; and Megan King, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.
James Curwood Witt, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Norma Mcgee Ogle and D. Kelly Thomas, Jr. JJ., joined.
JAMES CURWOOD WITT, JR., JUDGE
The petitioner's counsel-assisted petition for post-conviction relief alleged that the petitioner's trial counsel did not adequately investigate the charges against the petitioner, failed to gather exculpatory evidence, failed to explain the elements of the charged offenses, and failed to seek a reduction of the petitioner's bail. The petition also alleged that, because the petitioner "had to make a decision to plead guilty without sufficient opportunity to be advised of the law regarding the offenses and possible defenses to the charges, " the resulting guilty pleas were unknowing and involuntary.
The post-conviction court conducted an evidentiary hearing at which the 51-year-old petitioner testified that the charges in this case resulted from a domestic dispute between him and the victim, his then-wife, Julia Wright Nugent. He said that during an argument on Sunday, March 18, 2012, he grabbed the victim's arm but did not injure her. He denied that he threatened the victim. The petitioner testified that at the time of the offenses, he was trying to persuade the victim to "just give [him] five minutes and just talk" to him. He said a neighbor called the police, and the police arrested the petitioner after he admitted that he had touched the victim on the arm. The petitioner said that he remained in jail from the time of his arrest until he appeared in general sessions court the following Thursday and was released on bail. On the evening before his general sessions court appearance, he was served with an order of protection.
Approximately two weeks later, the petitioner appeared in court pro se for the protective order hearing. He testified that the victim had contacted him twice before the protective order hearing and that, after the hearing, he contacted the victim to arrange for some personalty to be moved and for the preparation of tax returns. The petitioner claimed that the victim had told the petitioner's father that she wished to reconcile.
The petitioner testified that on a night several weeks later, his bail bondsman called to inform the petitioner that he was due in general sessions court the following day for a bond revocation hearing. The petitioner appeared and voluntarily testified at the revocation hearing. When presented with transcripts of some e-mails, the petitioner admitted having sent them to the victim. The court revoked the petitioner's bond, and he was incarcerated. While he was in custody, he conferred with trial counsel, who informed the petitioner that the victim intended to aggressively pursue the charges against him and that the petitioner could remain in jail for several months pending grand jury review unless he agreed to plead guilty.
The petitioner testified that he pleaded guilty in order to get out of jail. He testified that, prior to the incidents with the victim, he had never been in trouble and had never been in jail. He said, "I had a job. I had ownership in a company. I had two animals that no one – I had no one to take care of. Nobody knew I was in jail."
The petitioner testified further that he felt "a lot of pressure" to plead guilty and that he "was afraid." He said that he suffered from bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, and "ADHD" and that during the 20 days he spent in jail before pleading guilty, he was deprived of the medications he took to treat these illnesses. The petitioner said that the deprivation of his medication resulted in "[w]ithdrawal, anxiety, depression."
The petitioner testified that he did not speak with his trial counsel between the day of the bond revocation and the appearance date on which he submitted his guilty pleas.
The petitioner testified that before the convictions, he was a board registered polysomnographic technologist and that he lost his "national registry" due to the felony conviction of aggravated stalking. He said that the board would not renew his license. He testified that he did not anticipate this development when he agreed to plead guilty. Additionally, he testified that he could not read without his reading glasses, that he did not ...